Last Saturday night, Yale captain John Hayden ’17 fired home his 50th career goal in the Elis’ season-ending defeat to Harvard. Tonight, the forward will make his National Hockey League debut for the Western Conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks, who have won three of the past seven NHL titles, playing alongside superstars such as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
The Blackhawks drafted Hayden with the 74th pick in the third round of the 2013 NHL draft, before he made his collegiate debut. In the four years since, Hayden has been an integral cog in the Bulldog attack. He led the team with 21 goals this season and also fired more than twice as many shots on target as any other Yale skater. Hayden also enjoyed tremendous success on the power play, netting 12 of his finishes on the player-advantage.
Hayden signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Blackhawks, which will expire at the end of next season. He passed on an NHL contract last season to return to Yale for his senior year, and had the forward decided not to sign, he would have become a free agent at the end of June. But the opportunity to sign with the Stanley Cup favorites proved too enticing an opportunity to pass up.
Chicago currently leads the Western Conference with 93 points and has 13 games remaining before the playoffs. Donning the #40 sweater, Hayden is expected to be in the Blackhawk line-up tonight against the Ottawa Senators. Chicago’s stretch of success and the expensive, long-term contracts given to its cadre of stars has bumped the Blackhawks up against the salary cap, increasing the importance of identifying and developing players like Hayden into established NHLers. With his power-play prowess and ability to establish himself and play successfully down low, Hayden will add another dimension to the skilled and speedy Blackhawk attack.
Hayden will become the third former Yale skater to make a NHL appearance this season, joining forward Kenny Agostino ’14 of the St. Louis Blues and defender Rob O’Gara ’16 of the Boston Bruins.